An Independent School • Grades 5-12

Ian McKay ’06

Chemical Engineer, Technology Investor, Entrepreneur | Battery Chemistry

July 2020

by Jim Collins

The Spring/Summer 2020 issue of Lakeside magazine featured "The Futurists," a gallery of forward-looking alums who, unconstrained by current assumptions, offer a view from outside the box.

BACKGROUND // Co-founder of Open Water Power (now part of L3 Harris) and Form Energy; lead inventor of an aluminum-based, underwater battery that provides 10 times the energy of lithium-ion batteries; degrees in chemical and mechanical engineering.

HIS QUESTION // How can we safely create more powerful batteries?

THE WORK // Independent engineer doing research in energy storage chemistries and catalyst materials used in batteries.

THE FUTURE // We’ve developed energy-dense batteries that breathe salt water. The real room for growth is in lithium, magnesium, or aluminum air-breathing chemistries, but the chemistry problems are ferociously hard — that’s probably decades away.

IN HIS WORDS // “A tricky thing about batteries: They’re more like bombs or rockets than like engines. All the oxidizing and reducing material is gathered in one place. The greater the intrinsic energy density, the more explosive and unsafe they become.”